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Death penalty

Published on October 10, 2012
Article by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, published on

Paris, October 11, 2012
Joint call for the abolition of the death penalty

There are battles we cannot win alone. The fight against the death penalty is one of them. In isolation, the different players would no doubt have failed to reduce the number of states that still resort to capital punishment. It is together that all those of us who are committed to abolition - states, international organizations and civil society - have achieved it. So it will also be together that we shall achieve total abolition. Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland want to be at the forefront of this drive for human dignity.

Today, 10 October, we celebrate the 10th anniversary of World Day Against the Death Penalty. This global day is an opportunity to reaffirm our opposition to capital punishment under all circumstances. As representatives of countries sharing common values, we must combine our efforts and speak with a single voice so that the practice – which has no place in the 21st century – ceases to exist.

In the past 20 years, more than 50 states have turned their backs on the death penalty. More than 130 have abolished it or observe a moratorium, while some 50 countries still apply it. So these figures are encouraging; the actions taken and efforts made are bearing fruit. But we must redouble our efforts, because our goal has not yet been achieved. We shall continue to fight the death penalty until it is abolished, because the idea that you can kill in the name of justice contradicts the values of humanity itself. We want to take a common stand, with conviction and perseverance, so that the number of executions continues to decline, procedures become more transparent and an ever higher number of countries abandon the death penalty, until this inhuman punishment disappears completely.

Capital punishment is incompatible with respect for human rights. It is an affront to human dignity and to the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. While the death penalty is sometimes practised on a discriminatory basis, its irreversible nature makes revising judgements impossible, leading in certain cases to the execution of innocent people. Such executions are enough to divest capital punishment of all legitimacy. Moreover, the death penalty does not prevent crimes from being committed; so it brings no greater safety, any more than it brings justice or redress to the families of the victims of a crime.

These considerations seem almost obvious to us, because our countries abolished the death penalty many years ago. However, at global level the path towards abolition requires a strong and constant commitment. Changes do not come about overnight. It is a slow evolution made up of stages. This progress is nonetheless very real, and we must ensure it continues. We shall go on arguing for the abolition of capital punishment, because only a strong political commitment will enable us to see the death penalty eventually disappear. In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted, by 109 votes to 41, a third resolution calling for a global moratorium on the use of the death penalty. The text, already adopted in 2007 and 2008, was put forward by our countries, the European Union and many other countries in all regions of the world. This year, the resolution is being presented again to the General Assembly, and our countries are committed to ensuring it gains even more significant support. The document emphasizes the progress and the irreversible nature of the global movement to abolish the death penalty.

The role of public opinion is also essential. People must have access to reliable information; they must be able to debate the issue, in order to take decisions with full knowledge of the facts. Civil society and non-governmental organizations have a crucial role.

Together we want to pursue our commitment against capital punishment, in the name of the values we share and because it is our duty to make dignity part of the human condition. We call on all states to join our declaration.

This call to abolish the death penalty has been signed by the following foreign ministers: Didier Burkhalter (Swizerland), Guido Westerwelle (Germany), Aurelia Frick (Liechtenstein), Michael Spindelegger (Austria), Giulio Terzi (Italy) and Laurent Fabius (France)./.

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